By AARON CHIYANZO and OLIVER SAMBOKO
FORMER Finance Minister, Bwalya Ng’andu, says there is no hidden debt that was procured during his time in office apart from what was declared unless it was acquired after he had left. Dr Ng’andu said he was not aware of extra loans that were borrowed except what was already made public by the government. The Bank of Zambia announced at a media briefing on Wednesday that the country’s debt stands at US$12.8 billion.
The new government announced that Zambia’s debt burden was bigger than the PF government had disclosed, saying that there was hidden debt. Dr Ng’andu however said in an interview that if there was any debt procured other than what was declared, then it was acquired after he had left when Parliament was dissolved.
“I am not aware, I was at the ministry up to somewhere in May and if there is anything like that then ask my colleagues who remained,” Dr Bwalya said. And claims by President Hakainde Hichilema that the previous Patriotic Front administration left the country bankrupt has been received with mixed feelings among stakeholders and ordinary citizens.
Stakeholders feel that sentiments were injurious to the nation and “careless” as they were not based on conclusive information. President Hichilema told the BBC that he inherited an “empty” treasury, while “horrifying” amounts of money had been stolen. He also said people were still trying to make last-minute movements of funds which are not theirs. Stakeholders, including FDD president Edith Nawakwi, PeP president Sean Tembo, former Minister of Water Development Sanitation, Raphael Nakacinda and People’s Alliance for Change (APC) president Andyford Banda said the statement was irresponsible as it had the potential to scare away foreign investors.
They said this was a mere excuse not to fulfil some of the UPND’s campaign promises such as free education and youth employment and urged the President to stop washing dirty linen in public. “When you are President of a country, it’s the same as when you’re a CEO of a company; your job is to paint a good picture about the country that you’re leading, in the eyes of your own people and the international community,” Mr Tembo said. He wondered how President Hichilema would alarm the world when an audit had not yet been conducted. And Ms Nawakwi said in an interview that President Hichilema’s claims lacked merit as they were based on hearsay. Meanwhile, Mr Banda said President Hichilema’s statement that his government has inherited an empty treasury was incorrect. Nakacinda also said President Hakainde Hichilema’s interview with the BBC shows that he had no economic recovery agenda for Zambia.